December 21, 2012 By Colin Wood
In August 2012, Cook County, Ill., CIO Greg Wass left his post to become a senior advisor for Gov. Pat Quinn -- where he looks for savings and intergovernmental projects that will benefit the state of Illinois.
When he was with Cook County, Wass was instrumental in connecting the county with both the state and the city of Chicago for big IT savings on collaborative projects. He was named as one of Government Technology's Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in 2012 for his work enabling more efficient business processes. Much of his work at the county is now being taken up by incoming CIO Lydia Murray.
A self-proclaimed serial reformer, Wass is focused on the state's Budgeting For Results program. Finding ways to allow IT to enable business and save money started with Wass cutting Cook County's IT budget by 30 percent during his first year. One of Wass' main projects was connecting the county with the state's open data system. The project is now being extended to include other places across the state. “What I learned from the county was that local government really had an immediate result on delivery of service, so I got very interested in what we were doing at the county and I wanted to do that at the state,” Wass said in an interview with Government Technology.
Budgeting For Results, Wass explained, means examining everything that happens in government and simplifying it down to how much is being spent for a provided service. “What are we getting for the money we paid? I'm a big believer that technology should be used not just to reduce the cost of technology but to reduce the cost of government,” he said.
Ultimately, Wass said, the program has three goals: reducing project costs, reducing the amount of time it takes to implement programs, and improving the quality of service provided. Wass' role in the project is driving these management improvements across the state through budgetary and business practice analysis.
One project on the horizon for Wass is a federal healthcare reform grant that could be announced next year. The grant would be intended to encourage the development of innovative payment models through the use of new payment technologies and statewide coordination.
In addition, Wass said he is working with the state's Department of Human Services Framework project that would connect multiple processes such as application intake, eligibility determination, case management, and reporting. “The framework is much larger and is meant to connect all these business processes across these programs into a service-oriented architecture and make a simpler, less expensive and more responsive type of technology,” he said.
Spurring big changes in government requires collaboration, he said, and successful collaboration requires three things. The state needs to have a viable technology to unite a project. The new model of purchasing technology rather than implementing government-built solutions, according to Wass, makes it easier for officials to focus on the project, rather than the technology. The second thing leaders need is experience, he said.
The third and most important thing, Wass indicated, is leadership that recognizes the value of working together. If leaders can operate in a culture where collaboration is encouraged and leaders are confident that collaborative projects will be approved, successful collaboration will most likely result. “You can't underestimate the value of having leaders who think that way,” he added.
*This story was edited on Dec. 25, 2012 to correct a minor error regarding the federal healthcare reform grant mentioned in the article.
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